MLA Sandra Jansen, cabinet minister Shannon Phillips battle over PC record on women's issues

A review Tuesday of the estimates for the new Status of Women ministry turned into a tense battle between cabinet minister Shannon Phillips and Conservative MLA Sandra Jansen.
Alberta environment minister Shannon Phillips will be in Paris for the upcoming UN climate change summit. (CBC )

A review Tuesday of the estimates for Alberta's new Status of Women ministry turned into a tense battle between Status of Women Minister Shannon Phillips and Conservative MLA Sandra Jansen.

Jansen, who was the associate minister for families and community safety under former premier Alison Redford, took issue with an assertion by Phillips that the PCs did nothing about women's issues.

"I think it's unhelpful to characterize the previous government of not doing anything," Jansen said. "Certainly myself and the staff that are working with you now worked very hard on these issues, so I just wanted to make that correction."

Jansen, who was the associate minister for families and community safety under former premier Alison Redford, took issue with an assertion by Phillips that the PCs did nothing about women's issues. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC News )
The exchange quickly became a shouting match between Jansen and Phillips. Jansen said she wanted Phillips to know that initiatives now underway started under her purview. Phillips responded that those initiatives were inadequate.

She described the framework for addressing sexual violence developed by the PCs as "distasteful" because it lacked any analysis about gender and LGBTQ issues. 

"Go ahead," Phillips told Jansen. "If you'd like to brag more about the previous government's record on women's issues, I'm happy to have that conversation because it was deplorable."

"That kind of language is unparliamentary and unhelpful to the situation," Jansen replied..

Moments later, when Jansen told Phillips that she didn't like her tone, Phillips replied that Alberta has very high levels of domestic violence and a gender pay gap.  The previous government "took victory laps over doing very little," Phillips added.

"I can assure you minister that no victory laps were being taken over the status of women in this province and that is a shameful suggestion to make," Jansen responded.

In a member's statement, Jansen criticized Phillips for being unprofessional and for resorting to finger-pointing and name-calling. She also tabled copies of the family violence framework she worked on.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Phillips' press secretary told reporters that the minister had "reached out" to Jansen and apologized. It isn't clear if Phillips spoke to Jansen in person or if Jansen accepted her apology.